March 2012

Wada goes three innings

Orioles lefty Tsuyoshi Wada got 10 outs over three innings and threw 46 pitches, including 31 for strikes in a Double-A game against the Red Sox today. He faced 13 batters and his fastball was mostly clocked in the 85-86 mph range, topping out at 87. Wada allowed one (unearned) run and two hits, walked none and struck out two. Here is what he had to say through his interpreter.

[on how it went]
“The fastball felt better than it did last time, but if I had to chose, definitely the control felt better than last time. I had better control.”
[pitching to contact]
“As long as I keep that ball down, I’m going to keep pitching to contact. That what I did in Japan, that’s what I did here today. I still think there is room for improvement with my fastball, that’s what I’m going to try to do the next time out.”
[will he be ready in time to compete for starting spot?]  “I still think there’s a chance. But of course, it’s up to the manager. I’ll do whatever the manager says.”
[know your role?] “They are having me throw multiple innings, having me sit down and go back out there, keeping their eyes on pitch count. So, I think they are looking at me as a starter. But I don’t know.”
[elbow issue?] “No problem.” [wada actually said this in English.]
[how many games would u need to be ready for the season?] “I don’t know what we are going to do from here yet. Haven’t heard yet. Hopefully, they let me throw longer next time. If they do that, I might be ready then. At most it would take me two outings. In Japan, I would usually go three or four outings during spring training and then go right into the season.”

Orioles vs Twins

ORIOLES LINEUP
Xavier Avery CF
Robert Andino SS
Nick Johnson DH
Nolan Reimold LF
Wilson Betemit 3B
Chris Davis 1B
Ronnie Paulino C
Ryan Flaherty RF
Matt Antonelli 2B

Wei-Yin Chen LHP
TWINS LINEUP
Ben Revere LF
Brian Dozier SS
Joe Mauer C
Justin Morneau DH
Josh Willingham RF
Chris Parmelee 1B
Sean Burroughs 3B
Luke Hughes 2B
Joe Benson CF

SP Carl Pavano

Explaining Britton’s PRP

I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding the news today that Orioles lefty Zach Britton received two rounds of platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy, a procedure that could help heal the inflammation in his left shoulder that has plagued him since August. The procedure was recommended to Britton by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., who he met with Wednesday morning.

So, what exactly is PRP? Well, I’m not an expert so I contacted one in Milwaukee Brewers team physician, Dr. Mark Niedfeldt, who was kind enough to dumb things down and explain the procedure a little more. (With a hat tip to injury expert, Will Carroll.) Niedfeldt said PRP is becoming increasingly common in athletes at all levels. In fact, he’s doing two procedures on Thursday.

Here are some of the questions I had answered, and hopefully it can help explain things a little better. It’s by no means a definitive report, but it does clear up many of the questions I had and I received from all of you today…

What exactly does this procedure entail?

The procedure consists of putting the patient’s blood through a special centrifuge to isolate platelets and growth factors, which are than injected back into the injured area. In Britton’s case, this was done twice.

“It’s done to heal tissue that’s not healing for whatever reason, the tendon is not a vascular area so there’s not very good blood supply, to areas such as the knee or in the rotator cuff,” Niedfeldt said. “The thought is you are injecting the substance into the area in an attempt to spur healing. One, is there is bleeding in the area every time you stick the needle in, so your body is going to rush to heal that, then you are putting in the PRP into the area. I look at this as sort of a fertilizer that you are putting around something you want to heal. You are taking the body’s own healing factors, concentrating it and hoping to spur that.”

What are the side effects?

None.

“There’s not really a downside to this, in the sense of it would be unusual to make anybody worse,” Niedfeldt said. “There’s often a bit of a flare-up after the injection, but you want the inflammation, you want the body to heal itself. You are trying to spur a healing response. Since it’s the patient’s blood, there’s not a problem with any type of rejection.”

Why not just get a Cortisone injection?

A Cortisone injection calms down the inflamed area, while PRP encourages inflammation to try to spur healing. Basically with Cortisone, you are trying to take away the discomfort with the injection, while the thought here is trying to get rid of it altogether. The upside with Cortisone, however, is a player is typically only sidelined a few days, while PRP takes much longer.

How long does this process take?

Dr. Andrews told Britton to prepare for a “six-week or more” process and Niedfeldt agreed.

“The downside is, it’s not a quick fix. It’s something [where] you can’t rush the biology of healing,” he said.  “When you are doing these things you are trying to get the body to heal itself, but the body can’t do that itself in a week or two, it typically takes 4-6 weeks. Things that were chronically damaged may take 8-12 weeks.”

Niedfeldt said he’s had patients who didn’t see any improvement for 12-16 weeks even.

“It’s highly variable and really based on the individual, [and] what area of the body you are treating,” he said.

Will it work?

Maybe.

“It’s not a magic bullet by any means,” Niedfelt said. “In some cases this is something that can heal the problem, and in some it doesn’t. There are various degrees of success.”

Britton will be shut down for at least 7-10 days, allowing the PRP to stay in the area, and his progress will be closely monitored for the next few weeks to see how the procedure does.

“That’s pretty typical, to shut somebody down completely for the first couple weeks, then see how they feel, then you start into lower level rehab after that,” Niedfelt said.

Right now, the procedure is typically done with chronic issues, such as Britton’s, although there is thought to trying it for more acute injuries as well. Niedfelt said they are starting to learn where it won’t work –on surgically repaired rotator cuffs, for example — although a lot of research and experimenting with this is still in the early stages.

“We are still learning where it’s working,” he said.

Britton said today he was made well aware of the longer recovery process and weighed his options before making the call to have PRP.

“[Dr. Andrews] had some pretty good success with it in the past. He’s been doing it for a while now,” Britton said.

“I’m not going to rush back and have the same issue crop back up. It’s just a process that I’ve got to take. I’m frustrated with it, but if it’s going to help me pitch and have a long career, that’s the most important thing. Not necessarily being ready to pitch in April.”

Britton gets PRP injection (w. postgame notes)

Orioles pitcher Zach Britton received two rounds of Platet Rich Plasma therapy on Wednesday, a new and increasingly popular procedure that he hopes will help heal the left shoulder inflammation that has plagued him since August.

Britton, who had the procedure recommended to him by Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla. on Wednesday morning, said he was told by Andrews to look at this as a “six-week or more process”, depending on how his body heals.  He called the entire injury experience, “obviously frustrating” but the hope continues to be that the 24-year-old lefty, who had an MRI taken that shows no structural damage, will be able to avoid surgery and pitch healthy at some point this season.

“I have a follow up appointment with Dr Andrews and he will assess and see how things are,” Britton said. “So, nothing will happen overnight.”

The procedure, called PRP, consists of centrifuging the patient’s blood to isolate platelets and growth factors. The mix is then injected back into the injured area to accelerate healing, and help speed tissue growth. Britton said the procedure was recommended over a standard Cortisone injection because it’s a way for the body to heal itself. The concentrated growth factors have been shown to speed tissue growth and healing in several studies, although the results are still disputed. The procedure has been done by a few other notable athletes including Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods.

While Britton was already a longshot for Opening Day, Wednesday’s news makes it a certainty he will not be ready to start the season. Britton mentioned the end of April as a potential target date, although he later admitted that his timetable is very much up in the air.

“I’m not going to rush back and have the same issue crop back up,” he said. “It’s just a process that I’ve got to take. I’m frustrated with it, but if it’s going to help me pitch and have a long career, that’s the most important thing. Not necessarily being ready to pitch in April.”

“It could go faster, it could go slower, you just don’t know. It’s truly unknown right now. You just have to see how my body reacts in a couple weeks.”

Britton won’t pick up a ball for at least 7-10 days, although it could be longer before he starts any kind of shoulder rehab program.

 

 

 

***

Here are a few postgame notes…

*Pitchers Willie Eyre, Miguel Socolovich, Jon Link and Oscar Villarreal were optioned to Minor League camp following Wednesday’s game.  The moves brings the spring roster to 43, with 23 pitchers.

*The Orioles signed Josh Barfield to a Minor League deal on Wednesday, according to Baseball America.  Barfield, 29, last appeared in the majors with the Indians in 2009 and is a second baseman.

*Ryan Flaherty made his spring debut at first base, entering the game in the top of the sixth inning. Flaherty, who is trying to make the team in a bench role, has played everywhere but catcher and centerfield this spring and looks to be a favorite to make the team among the group of “utility” players.

Duquette on signing Willis

In case you missed it, the Orioles signed Dontrelle Willis to a Minor League deal which was made official today.  You can read Willis’ quotes from this morning here. And here’s what executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette had to say about the move…

“The idea is to see if he can be a lockdown left-handed reliever against left-handed hitters,” Duquette said. “Our interest in that project is lefties hit .127 off him last year, and three of the last four years he’s done very well vs. left-handed hitters.”

“The other thing that’s interesting is Dontrelle Willis has had a significant major league career and he’s been a winning pitcher and placed high in Cy Young Award voting, but he’s only 30 years old, and a lot of times these left-handed relievers are just beginning their careers in their early-to-mid 30s. So if you take a look at Arthur Rhodes, for example, who made that transition and did it effectively, he was pitching up until last year. He was in the World Series. So, we’re going to give that a shot with Dontrelle Willis.”

Duquette acknowledged that for Willis to transition into the relief role he will probably need some time in Triple-A.

“Cla Rapada was our left-handed specialist, and when we added (Wilson) Betemit, we lost him,” Duquette said. “We said we were going to look around for a left-handed specialist that Buck could use against left-handed hitters, and we’re going to see if we have that in Dontrelle Willis.”

“We still have a number of players in our camp that we need to evaluate and see where they fit in on our team. Concurrently, we’ll be looking for opportunities outside the organization. But we’ve got some more work to do on our people here.”

Roberts on his recovery

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts has looked better, particularly the last few days, as he continues to progress toward getting into a spring game. There’s no timetable for that, but Roberts –who has started to watch parts of the team’s games in the dugout — said on Wednesday that he’s feeling increasingly better and hasn’t had to take any days off of working out.

Here’s the full interview below…

[better in the cage?] I mean, yeah, anytime you at least get a couple weeks under your belt you start to feel a little better than nine months of not being able to hold a bat. It wasn’t so good at first, but it gets better and better. Repetition in general, everyone comes down to spring training needing repetition.

I haven’t had to take any days off, which is good.  [I’m] starting to continue to do a little more, starting to go out and watch some games and watch some innings and get in atmospheres and environments that I need to reacclimate to a little bit more.

[hard to watch?] Sure. Yeah, I mean I feel like I’ve been watching for a long time. And obviously our desire is to go on the field playing. There’s nothing more I want to do than be on the field playing. But unfortunately that’s where we are right now and you just try to make the best of it even though it’s not exactly where you want to be.  I have to realize that in this grand scheme of things I’m a lot better than I was five months ago. It’s easy to let that get lost in the shuffle.

[on watching the Orioles’ games] I’ve only been out there once, I’m going to go back out there again today.  First day, I watched a couple innings and it was good.  Everything did look a little fast, for sure. But even on a day off when you watch a game, everything looks a lot faster than when you are playing. So, it was good to get out there and kind of see some game speed stuff, track the ball and be in that sort of environment again.

[on every good day giving him hope of playing this season] Sure, yeah. If I was still sitting on the sidelines id be a lot less hopeful. My doctor continues to tell me that there’s very good reason for hope. So I don’t see at this point, any reason why I won’t. It’s just a matter of when.

[where will u be in two weeks?] I really haven’t even sat down and discussed it with anybody at this point. At some point I will, but we haven’t talked about it at all yet.

Orioles vs Blue Jays

*In case you missed it, the Orioles signed Dontrelle Willis to a Minor League deal, and the left-hander arrived in camp this morning ready to go. You can read his quotes here.

*For Orioles’ prospect Jason Esposito, the choice to attend Vanderbilt University was invaluable. He talks about maturing in life and his goals for the future here.

*Alfredo Simon, who has been dealing with left groin soreness, said he’s been feeling much better since the issue first crept up on Sunday night. Simon said he will throw a bullpen either today or tomorrow and he still expects to compete for a starting rotation spot this spring. He left camp briefly yesterday to renew his passport.

*Taylor Teagarden was hit by a line drive in yesterday’s game and the initial X-ray on his left hand came back negative. It looked much better today, and Teagarden –who had an epidural in his lower back to help calm that area down — hopes to resume some baseball activities by the end of the week. At this point, being ready for April 6’s Opening Day is pretty unlikely, but Teagarden is trying to get back into games as soon as possible.

ORIOLES LINEUP
Endy Chavez RF
J.J. Hardy SS
Wilson Betemit 1B
Adam Jones CF
Matt Wieters C
Mark Reynolds 3B
Nolan Reimold LF
Chris Davis DH
Robert Andino 2B
Tommy Hunter RHP
BLUE JAYS LINEUP
Rajai Davis CF
Omar Vizquel SS
J.P. Arencibia C
Adam Lind 1B
Ben Francisco RF
Travis Snider LF
Yan Gomes 3B
David Cooper DH
Mike McCoy 2B

RHP Kyle Drabek

D-Train on joining the Orioles

Dontrelle Willis was here bright and early this morning, and he will wear No. 25 in camp. His locker is situated among a row of catchers and the veteran had a wide grin on his face. Here’s what he had to say..
[on joining the Orioles] “The opportunity was definitely good and I’ve played with a bunch of these guys and against these guys, so I’ve always had a great deal of respect for them. I’m definitely getting used to coming out of the bullpen and stuff like that. It seems like the bullpen was already set for Philadelphia, so this is another opportunity to go out there with another young, talented team and go out there and show my stuff.”

[on how was he throwing with Philly?] “Good. The one thing about it – I was just telling Adam Jones – is that the bullpen is a different beast for me as far as, in my career, I’ve never done it before. At first it was a little shaky, but I finally started to get  my bearings and get comfortable about going out there, because everybody’s different in the bullpen – how to get ready and how to get prepared and stuff like that. I was definitely getting my bearings under my feet, so I’m going to continue to do stuff like that and get used to my role over here.”

[on if he thinks he will be able to find a place here?] “I hope so, I definitely hope so, or ill go home. Simple as that. I hope so. Like I said, I have fun playing baseball and the day that I don’t ill go home. I have kids and a family, we’ve sacrificed a lot to be here as far as our family. But I love playing baseball and love the camaraderie and I love being around, and if I go home and somebody wants me to be a coach and get a fungo, ill do that too. I don’t really look at it like that, I just love playing the game.”

[physically where he’s at given that he had arm soreness with the Phillies this spring] “I’m good now though. Right before I got let go in Philadelphia I was able to get into a game and get some work in. So I just got to catch up with some throwing and stuff and go from there.”

[on if he can make the Orioles out of camp]

“I hope so. Whatever they want me to do. It’s so late in Spring Training, I just want to go out there, get in some games and see how it goes and take it one day at a time. It’s tough because the timing of me coming over here. I’m open to anything as long as I can get some good work in and go from there.

I actually got here about three hours ago, I passed my physical and go back in will get my running in. that’s one thing about baseball, you’ve had a couple days off you got to go get back in and get your bearings and stuff.”

[tough given his success to be pitching in the minors?] “No, I was able to actually reinvent myself because as a young guy, they swing at everything. That’s the one thing about it. You learn quickly to try to master your offspeed stuff and do stuff like that. It’s exciting. They made me feel old, because they were like, ‘I remember watching you on TV.’ And I’m like, ‘Whoa, I just turned 30.’ But they play hard, because they definitely want to get that first home run off Dontrelle. So you have fun going out there and battling, reinventing yourself. You see a lot of guys going and reinventing themselves. That’s what I did last year, going down there and starting and working on my mechanics.”

Willis said the good part about being a part of so many organizations is he knows a few guys on every team, including the Orioles. He’s particularly close with center fielder Adam Jones.

“They are excited, they are revamped, even the ballpark here, I drove past it, it’s all new and stuff. So it’s good to come here and see guys excited and ready to work.”

Willis signs Minors deal with Orioles

In the Orioles’ continuing efforts to stockpile pitching, the club signed lefty Dontrelle Willis to a Minor League deal on Tuesday night.

Willis, who signed a non-guaranteed one-year deal with the Phillies this winter, was released several days ago after making just three Grapefruit League appearances. He allowed five runs in 2 2/3 innings this spring and dealt with some arm soreness before Philly pulled the plug and granted him free agency. .

The National League Rookie of the Year in 2003, Willis has won four games since 2008, but at 30 years old, he’s still enough for clubs to take a gamble. He was 1-6 with a 5.00 ERA with the Reds last year but he held left-handed hitters to a .127 average, prompting the Phillies to sign him as a potential reliever.

It’s unclear what role the Orioles envision Willis in and whether or not they will stretch him out to be  a starter. The signing was first reported on Twitter by ESPN.com and Willis’ agency, Sosnick Cobbe , confirmed the report on their Twitter feed.

A few post-game notes

*Nick Markakis went 0-for-3 in his first game in right field this spring. He was a little tentative initially in chasing Hunter Pence’s single in the first inning, but he made a few strong throws, including a nice relay in that resulted in a 9-4-5 putout.

Markakis has been slowed this spring from offseason abdominal surgery, and he will take off Wednesday and probably serve at designated hitter again Thursday before playing the field Friday against the Red Sox. I’ll have quotes from him up later on Orioles.com.

*Brian Matusz wasn’t particularly impressive, but he did limit the damage and held the Phillies to just one run over five innings. The 25-year-old Matusz has made a pretty strong case this spring to be in the Orioles’ Opening Day rotation and he told reporters afterward that that decision is out of his control.

“All I can do is go out there every fifth day and work hard and battle and keep throwing zeros on the board,” he said. “And everything else will fall into place.”

You can read the game recap here.

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